Mondegreens: xoJane Editors' Most Embarrassing Misheard Lyrics

"I'm your penis. I'm your fire. Jorgenzire."
Publish date:
June 5, 2013
music, songs, lyrics, mondegreens, xojane editor roundup

Because I'm a pedantic asshole, I like to make sure I'm getting even the littlest things right, especially when it comes to words.

If I don't know the words to a song, I won't sing it out loud. Even when I was living in Florida and frequently drove my car alone, I refused to sing the chorus of "Rocket Man" in the privacy of my Hyundai Accent because, despite looking up the lyrics numerous times (it's "burning out his fuse up here alone"), I just could not remember them.

Before the pedantry kicked in sometime in high school, I was singing mondegreens left and right. "What's a mondegreen?" you ask? Well, less-nerdy-than-I reader, the term was coined by writer Sylvia Wright in her 1954 essay, "The Death of Lady Mondegreen," in which she recalled mishearing the fourth line of a poem from Percy's Reliques, "And laid him on the green," as "And Lady Mondegreen." Thus, mondegreen has become a dorky way to say "misheard lyric." (It's one syllable shorter, but it doesn't save any time since you end up saying many more syllables when you explain what it is.)

Anyway, I had some pretty ridiculous childhood mondegreens. The first one I remember is from "What a Feeling," Irene Cara's big hit from Flashdance. The lyrics in the chorus go, "Take your passion, and make it happen." Being four years old, with no concept of innuendo, I innocently thought she was singing, "Take your pants down, and make it happen."

A couple years later, Mr. Mister's "Kyrie" was playing nonstop. I wasn't yet fluent in Greek (I'm still not, but I do know the alphabet -- thanks, Delta Zeta sorority!), so when they sang, "Kýrie, eléison, down the road that I must travel," I assumed it was English; specifically, "Carry a laser down the road that I must travel." (Return of the Jedi was pretty fresh in my little mind, so I pictured Luke Skywalker carrying a light saber, walking down a dirt road.)

My most nonsensical mondegreen came in 1991, when I was in sixth grade. Boyz II Men's "Motownphilly" was a huge hit, but you could've knocked me over with a CD case if you'd told me the lyrics were, "So we started a group and here we are." I was sure -- stubborn tween sure -- that they were singing, "So we started a noopydeepyda." I chalked it up to not knowing what I assumed was cool new-jack-swing lingo. In my defense, the name of the song is "Motownphilly" (one word), and it's on an album called Cooleyhighharmony.

I asked some xoJane and xoVain folks for some of their most memorable mondegreens, old or new. Here's what I got.


"You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morisette

"Venus" by Bananarama


"More Than a Woman" by the BeeGees


"Free From Desire" by Gala (a one-hit wonder in Europe)


"Drift Away" by Dobie Gray

"Love Shack" by The B-52s


"Bennie and The Jets" by Elton John


"Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles


"Marry You" by Bruno Mars


"Juicy" by Notorious B.I.G.


"Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z

Also, pretty much every one of us and their mother (literally -- Daisy's mother) thought the Manfred Mann "Blinded By The Light" lyrics were "wrapped up like a douche." I mean, who didn't, right? (Well, Bruce Springsteen, I guess, since he wrote it.)

How about you? What are your most ridiculous mondegreens?